Supporting forces in responding to vulnerability

David Tucker, the College lead on crime and criminal justice, talks about the background to developing products now available to everyone in policing, to support them in dealing with vulnerability.

Back in 2012 the College carried out some research and found, to no great surprise, that the work of policing was changing. Rather than just dealing with thefts, burglaries and robberies, the workload contained much more on managing the risk of harm to people.

High-profile examples include child sexual abuse and exploitation, including non-recent cases, modern slavery, domestic abuse, and County Lines dealing with exploited children as safeguarding issues rather than as criminals.

We all want to make people safer, but this change in demand and the way in which we seek to address it, is creating significant challenges within and beyond policing.

These vulnerability related investigations take longer and require different skills. They move policing away from shorter, 'transactional', responses to longer term interventions where the ongoing safety of all involved in an incident, or incidents, is the primary consideration.

The key to dealing with vulnerability is to understand the link between a person's vulnerability and their situation.

This way we can reduce repeat interventions by addressing vulnerability more effectively in the first instance, and therefore reduce demand.

We found training on the issue was fragmented across policing, so our aim was to create a comprehensive package of products to ensure everyone in policing, and working in partnership with policing, is equipped to respond to vulnerability in a consistent and effective way.

Following a successful bid for Police Transformation Fund money, we were able to inform the development of our vulnerability learning package by reviewing the available evidence in vulnerability, and researching the most effective way of delivering such training.

This resulted in us putting the victim's voice at the heart of our training, using interviews with them (or a relative in those cases where the victim was murdered), and exploring case studies of their interactions with police.

The training sets out a way to deal with vulnerability. Officers and staff dealing with vulnerable people should understand what personal factors make them vulnerable, and then identify what it was in the environment that resulted in harm or risk of harm.

We thoroughly tested this training with a force, evaluated the results and used feedback to refine it further. We then tested it with over 9000 officers across seven forces. The evaluation and feedback from this pilot is what has informed the final one-day training that all officers and staff can now undertake.

However, training the police will not significantly affect how vulnerable people are helped unless it is part of a system response.  I mentioned earlier those who work in partnership with police. They are fundamental to effective responses. The pathways to authorities and organisations that support vulnerable people need to be clear and robust.

Policing generally focuses on the situational or environmental factors: victims are taken to places of safety, suspects are arrested etc. Local authorities and health services are often engaged in longer term support. Without systems in place to engage partners when a vulnerable person comes to notice, policing can find itself dealing with repeat situations.

This is why we have created the force self-assessment health check that helps forces identify areas for improvement, and put in place the necessary structures to support officers and staff. There are also multi-agency exercises developed as part of the project to test partnership working in critical incidents and specialist investigations.

The vast majority of vulnerable people who come into contact with police are dealt with incredibly well by officers and staff. What we now need to ensure is that once that contact has been made, everyone can work to ensure it is not needed repeatedly.

Please visit our vulnerability page and see if the products there can help you develop, or help your force refine its support to officers and staff. Please give them a try.

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